A lot has changed since the last time I visited Krug's Tavern, which had to be 10 or 12 years ago. The place has gotten a facelift, surely to the chagrin of some of the regulars. It's much brighter than it used to be. A back room has now been opened up to a proper dining room, rather than being the room that held boxes and a pool table as it was. The menu now boasts their "World Famous" burgers. Prices have gone up. I'm pretty sure the cheeseburger was $6 or less. Now it's $8.75 or so. And it was a heck of a lot more crowded this time around. All of this, presumably due to positive press they have gotten from that fella from NJ.com, multiple times a year, every year, without fail.
The place is a pirate ship. A veritable sausage-fest. Indeed my female companion was the only woman in the place for the entire time we were there. Krug's was and probably generally is filled with regulars, blue collar types with some white collar types eating burgers and drinking Miller Lite like it's their job (I made that my job on this day). Quite a lively bunch. At top volume: "So the f*ckin guy gives me a check, and I says to 'em, I says, 'I'm gunna call your f*ckin bank to make sure this f*ckin' ding is good!'"
All of that matters none when you consider that it's a great burger, and you still feel like you're walking back in history, even though it's now so fancy.
We started with wings. A regular next to us at the bar offered "This ain't a wing place." Yeah yeah, settle the hell down over there, fella, I know what this is.
The wings, ordered well-done, were crispy, and an appropriately small size, which maximizes the skin and fat. I'm not a fan of big, meaty wings. I'm not there for the white meat, after all. They seemed to be seasoned with salt and pepper and a light coating of Buffalo sauce. I added a bit more from the bottle of Frank's sitting on the bar. Really good wings for not-a-wing-place.
The burger is the star of the show (as are, per another regular next to us, the whole ham on Wednesdays, which sells out quickly, and the roast beef on Thursdays). Advertised and delivered as 12 ounces, this beast starts out as a meatball, and it's flattened on the flat top to a hefty thickness, giving it an excellent crust. After glancing at that flat top, which I'm sure is cleaned regularly, I bet burgers toward the end of the day are better than the first ones: it had quite a bit of "seasoning."
Cooked to m/r as ordered, this thing was glorious, beefy, and juicy. None of this fancy blend nonsense. None of this dry-aged stuff. Just a great burger, with gooey cheese, on a sesame seeded bun just barely strong enough to hold it all together. A wonky burger-to-bun ratio is not an issue here. It should be noted that Krug's does not season their meat at all. I've found the burger benefits greatly from adding some salt.
The burger is served with a big ol' pickle, and a couple of pickled cherry peppers.
This is a classic pub burger in a classic pub setting in a classic park of a great American city. Don't be a fool and skip it for as long as I did.
There's a parking lot in the rear of the place (don't use that parking lot next to it, as that's for a supermarket, if my Spanish skills are what I think they are). And street parking is available. Oh, I'm told the ladies room was spotless. Probably because it's rarely used.
Krug's Tavern : 118 Wilson Ave : Newark, NJ : 973.465.9795